I hope you liked my previous articles within the series “Red Rebels” about Raya Dunaevskaya, Bianca Tosoni-Pittoni and others. Here is a story of another exceptional woman, Mollie Steimer. As with the previous heroines, I came across Mollie while writing my book, a biography of Angelica Balabanoff, due to be published by McFarland Publishers in September, The Strange Comrade Balabanoff: The Life of a Communist Rebel. Due to the lack of space I was unable to write about her in my book. I would not say that Mollie is my heroine. I do not share her ideas. She was an ardent anarchist and some people suffered because of her believes. Nonethelss, her life was most impressive. She stood for her ideas until the end. No matter how hard it could get and no matter where or how she lived. She ended up “creating” her own extraordinary fate, making it a rare and unusual event which so many of us try to do and so few of us achieve.
Mollie Steimer (1897 – 1980) was born as Marthe Alperine in the Ukraine. Mollie moved to the US at the age of 15, becoming an anarchist and free-speech campaigner. After aggressive anarchist behavior directed against the US policy in Russia and their support of the Tsarist army during the Bolshevik Revolution she was first imprisoned and then deported back to her native land, arriving in Moscow on Dec 15, 1923.
She quickly met a fellow anarchist Senya Fleshin (by then separated with Louise Berger I blogged about in my previous artile) who became her lifetime partner. Jailed in Russia for their anarchist ideas, they were freed after demands of Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman and deported to Germany where both eventually met Angelica. When Hitler came to power in Germany they fled to Paris, where Angelica lived at that time. Disappointed with the events in Russia they continued to write articles and agitate for anti-Bolshevik causes. It is no wonder that she and Angelica were good friends. Both were born in Russia, were ardent anti-war campaigners (though Mollie was an anarchist which Angelica a socialist) and free-speech campaigners, both were small, Mollie measured 1m42 cm and Angelica was only slightly taller, and stood up for their believes until the end of their lives.
In 1940 Mollie and Senya managed to get to Cuemavca, Mexico, where they ran a photographic studio. Together they retired in 1963. Mollie continued to advocate anarchist ideals and correspond with various comrades around the world, including Angelica. She participated in a couple of films such as Anarchism in America – a 1983 documentary, directed by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher, and produced by Pacific Street Films. To see the film click here. She died of heart failure in her home on July 23, 1980, aged 82.
To know more about Aneglica Balabanoff go to the page About Angelica.